Not so funny, but true: A watched pot doesn’t boil – my blood does.

27 Jan

This is what comes up when you google "Snowy Thundercat." In case you were curious.

The East Coast got pummeled with ThunderSnow yesterday. Upon hearing the forecast, my head immediately jumped to ThunderCats, so I was like, “COOL. BRING IT!”

And then I realized it was a snowstorm with lightning, and my revised thought was, “Um. I hope this doesn’t mess up my flight!”

Alas, it did. My 4:30pm flight to Detroit was cancelled at noon yesterday. At the time of the cancellation, the ground was completely dry and there was nary flake in the sky, so I thought USAirways was annoyingly cautious. I called to book another flight, and they attempted to put me on a 6pm flight to Philly that would connect to Detroit with a midnight arrival.

Um, thanks, but if you can’t get ONE plane off the ground when it’s not even snowing, I don’t have much confidence that you’ll be able to swing a two-leg flight that leaves later AND routes through a city that is forecast to receive even more snow than DC. So I asked what else they had that was direct, and got booked for 8:35 am today.

Fast forward to this morning. I woke up at 5am to confirm my flight hadn’t been cancelled. Alas – it WAS cancelled.  Shocker. I consoled myself with the knowledge that my early grasp of the situation would give me an advantage for rebooking.

So I went online to shift my reservation, but their system refused to recognize my confirmation number. (Perhaps because my original reservation is two planes behind me, or perhaps because the overseas operator who rebooked it couldn’t pronounce the new confirmation number.) In any case, I dialed the 800 number… where I was told to brace for a 30 minute hold due to excessive call volume.

That was at 5:15am. When was my call answered? 9:55.

I’ll help with the math: that was a hold time of FOUR HOURS and THIRTY FIVE MINUTES. (That’s 4:40 in case you can only read numbers, not words. In which case this post is simply about clocks to you. Sorry.)

Are you shitting me? I could’ve driven to Pittsburgh in that amount of time.

Fortunately, I’m not a complete idiot, so instead of calling from my cell phone, I dialed through my computer using Skype. This allowed me to keep the call holding in the background while I conducted business as usual so I wasn’t completely paralyzed.

It was especially helpful because around 8am I realized that if they WERE able to put me on the 11am flight (the next direct option) I would need to be showered and ready. So I toted my laptop into the bathroom and cranked the volume while I showered. I figured it might be awkward if they chose that moment to answer my call, but part of me also thought the magic of a bad moment might actually cause them to pick up the phone.

As it turns out, I could’ve fallen asleep in the shower for almost 2 hours without risking an awkward moment.

Sometime around 9am I started to get indignant. My mind jumped to the possibility that I’d been on hold so long that they’d put me in a fake queue, with the specific purpose of wearing me down so they could deal with other, more current customers. This is when I realized my mind had jumped the shark like a crazy lady.

Here’s a rough transcript of my stream of consciousness:

Listen, assholes, I’ve given you four hours of my life.
You BETTER answer this call.
You OWE me that much.
I deserve a LIVE voice.
Your hold message is ironic.
Do you really want to suggest rental car companies to someone whose flight has been cancelled?
Will I book a trip to Tel Aviv through you?
You can’t even get me 500 miles to Detroit Motor City.
Tell me one more time that I can do this transaction on your website and I will file a complaint.
OK. Complaint it is.
<First I tweet using #USAIR and #FAIL as my tags.>
<Then I go to the USAir website and file a formal complaint.>

This is the complaint:

I understand you can’t control the weather. While it’s frustrating that my flight was cancelled, I don’t blame you for that. It was out of your control. However, what IS in your control is a) your website’s ability to facilitate my rebooking, and b) the response at your call center. Certainly you knew that an absurd number of flight cancellations would result in high call volume. So you should’ve staffed up to respond appropriately, or – if the problem was hardware – run to your local Target and purchased enough handsets to take the calls. I’ve been on hold four hours, which doesn’t bode well for my ability to get rebooked on the next direct flight (now in 30 minutes!). You can bet your ass I will publicly bitch/tweet this customer service nightmare to everyone in my network.

I stopped myself short of calling them “douche canoes” or “ass hats” in my note, so I felt it was – overall – highly constructive feedback. Score one point for maturity!

Actually, maybe they were right to cancel my flight and ground me. They would’ve had to coin a new phrase for “the friendly skies” after I was done flying them.

4 Responses to “Not so funny, but true: A watched pot doesn’t boil – my blood does.”

  1. Judson February 1, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

    Nice! I agree, nothing gets me more irritated than misinformation, either through malice or incompetence, and the airlines seem to be particularly bad about that. Although, during my recent visit to DC (wherein I met up with Alan again after so many years) I had the misfortune of being in a power outage due to the snow. I called Dominion to report the outage, and they said the wait time was about an hour but if I left my number then instead of waiting on hold they’d call me back automatically when someone was free. Since I was on my cell phone with no way to recharge it I thought that was great and I signed up. The only problem being that after they called me back I *still* had to wait more than two hours on hold (and nearly run out of juice) before I got through to a person, except this time with no further information or way to get out of it. Good idea, poor execution…

    • pithypants February 2, 2011 at 11:19 am #

      Judson – No doubt. I had another poor customer service experience this week. After hitting four different prompts, I received the message, “We are experiencing higher than usual call volume. Try again later. Goodbye!” Um. I tried four more times with the same results. Interestingly, I was trying to PAY them. You’d think they would take that kind of call. Or not.

  2. Michele February 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    I didn’t know there were other people who used name calling similar to mine! I really like your “douche canoes” or “ass hats” – I may have to borrow those! Feel free to use these from my personal vocabulary if you like:
    “Ass Clown” and “Ass Monkey”

    • pithypants February 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

      Oh, I do love Ass Monkey. Thanks for the reminder!

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